Monthly Archives: January 2014

Parlour Burger, Sydney CBD

It’s a pretty simple formula at Parlour Burger, Sean Connolly’s offshoot of The Morrison and right next door to it. The burgers, each a tenner, a few sides, order at the bar and grab a number, then take a seat. He apparently decided to do this after noticing they were selling large volumes of The Morrison Burger a week, though I’m sure the much talked of success of Chur Burger – who has a similar formula – helped.

The menu is short and sweet – five burgers, four sides .

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Pictured in order, we tried the chicken, fish and black widow burger (there is some kind of charcoal added to the bun to make it black). You’ll notice straight away that they aren’t big burgers, slightly bigger than a slider, so if you’re a big eater or very hungry one probably won’t do the trick. I liked the chicken and quinoa that I tried, but found the ceasar mayo too salty. My dining companions gave theirs the thumbs up.

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The fries, I thought, were incredibly small for $8 – this photo is before we’d eaten any, they weren’t half finished (have a look at the photo on their website! Ours is not the heaped plate depicted!). And they were nothing special, so give them a miss.
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What I did like was the cabbage slaw, finely sliced and with a good acidic dressing.
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So the verdict – it is “ok”. The burgers aren’t going to blow your mind, but for a quick, unfussy meal, it’s not bad, and I’d come here before Bridge Street Garage.

Parlour Burger, 225 George Street, Sydney, ph 02 9247 6744
http://parlourburger.com.au/

Parlour Burger on Urbanspoon

Vegetable Antipasto Platter

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An antipasto platter is always a great part of a buffet when entertaining a crowd.  Typically they would feature prosciutto, salami, ham, mortadella and the like, but this is a good vegetable alternative.  You can make each element in advance and refrigerate until ready to serve (store each part in a separate container). Mine consisted of

Eggplant (2 large) and Zucchini (3 large) – slice with a mandolin, I used a 7mm slice, then spray with olive oil spray and grill on a griddle pan, bbq, or in my case, I used my trusty George Foreman.  Once cooked, season with salt, and add some olive oil

Mushrooms (4 large flat) – cut into pieces, place in a bowl, add a few sprigs of thyme, salt, pepper, olive oil and combine.  Then place on a lined baking tray in an 180 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until cooked

Fennel (4 baby) – cut each fennel into 8 wedges, place in a bowl, add salt, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil and combine.  Then place on a lined baking tray in an 180 degree oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until tender

Capsicum (2 red and 2 green) – place under grill until charred, turning as needed until completely charred. Allow to cool slightly, then peel away charred skin and remove seeds and cut into strips.  Season with salt and add olive oil.

Ricotta – spray a baby springform cake tin with olive oil, and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper (do not put on the bottom of the tin).  Fill the tin with 500g ricotta, smooth the top with a knife, spray the top with a little olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper, and if you have any some dried oregano flakes.  Bake in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven then allow to cool in tin, remove from tin and refrigerate until required.

Place all the elements on a platter and garnish with basil.

You could also add some grilled asparagus, bocconcini, and sun dried tomatoes.

Bentley Restaurant and Bar, Sydney CBD

I did something a seasoned restaurant diner would normally never do. I went to Bentley on the second day it opened. Usually, I will give a new place a few weeks to find their feet and resolve any teething issues.  But my thinking was that Bentley isn’t “new new” – it’s a solid team that has just changed premises (and I’d been to the Crown Street original) – so I figured they would be on top of the situation.  The new premises are in the CBD at the Raddison Blu Hotel, on the former Bistro Fax site.  There’s been a bit of a restaurant migration to the CBD of late, which tells me that the corporate dollar, while sparser than it used to be following that terrible acronym the GFC, is still important.

The fit out is what you would call modern elegance.  Plush carpet, beautiful veneer tables, gorgeous cutlery and plates (looks like the same guy that does the handcrafted dinnerware for Ormeggio?), with what Gourmantic aptly described as “pick up sticks” hanging from the ceiling.  On the service side, the staff were simply wonderful.  We had a little family challenge and drama that day, as is prone to happening in our household, and our booking time became somewhat fluid.  They were fabulous about accommodating us.  The staff were also all very knowledgeable about the dishes, and clearly adoring of the talents of the chef.

And if you’re up for a drink there is a seriously awesome wine list.

The menu too has that trend of modern minimalist wording. I’m fairly fluent in the matter of Language Menus, having passed LM101 some years ago and now doing the Advanced Course. But I did need some help with things like purslane, cardoons, quangdongs, samphire and the like (a succulent, an artichoke thistle, a fruit, a ‘salty’ plant, for those who also require interpretation).   After our well informed waitress had enlightened us, this is what we ordered.

Southern Calamari + Carrots + Squid Ink + Sea Blight. How pretty! The paper thin carrots looked like a flower. We got too busy eating it, but underneath was this gorgeously swirled calamari and a delicious squid ink sauce, which I soaked up with the excellent sourdough.

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Moreton Bay Bugs + Smoked Sweetcorn + Shellfish Broth – delicious and beautifully cooked.

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It came with a side to mop up the broth.  We’d been eyeing this off at the adjacent table.  From a distance it seriously looked like a brownie, but a brownie with your main course? Turned out it was a squid ink brioche.  The squid ink served in my mind to give colour rather than flavour, as it did just taste like a traditional buttery brioche. It came with a sea urchin emulsion, which I wasn’t a fan of.

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Pork Loin + Macadamia Milk + Wattle Crumbs + Quandongs. It wasn’t a big piece of pork loin, but it was so rich that I couldn’t possibly have eaten more of it. I adored the combination of the macadamia milk and wattle crumbs, with the redness and flavour of the quandong.

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Cape Grim Beef Tenderloin + Roasted Parsnip + Nettle Salsa. Again very well cooked and a lovely dish.

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Aerated Chocolate + Fig Leaf Ice cream + Lemon Aspen. This was like eating one of those Aero bars and was good fun. Great ice cream.

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Apricot and Black Cardamom Ice-cream + Cumquats + Saffron. This one didn’t do it for me – “interesting” is probably the word I would use. The cumquats, which I think were poached, were too intense for my liking, but my husband (the subject of the birthday message!) really liked them.

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On my next visit (and I’m sure there will be one given the new location nice and close to the office), I would probably go heavy on the savoury and skip dessert.

Bentley Restaurant and Bar, 27 O’Connell St, Sydney, ph (02) 8214 0505
http://www.thebentley.com.au

Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Mamma Rosa’s Crostoli

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One Sunday morning I say to Mamma Rosa, “let’s make some crostoli”. I think she can make these in her sleep. In our particular neck of the Italian-Australian community, my mother is very well known for her biscuits and sweets – her amaretti, almond bread, and crostoli rival any pasticceria. You can see her hands kneeding the dough – hands well worn from years of loving toil spent on her family.  There are lots of different versions of crostoli, and lots of stories about what part of Italy they originated from. This is the version my mother has been making for as long as I can remember. Some people also add lemon zest; different types of alcohol can be used – instead of whisky, you can use brandy, white wine, Marsala or a liquor called Millefiori; some versions use butter instead of oil. So there are a lot of possible variations. Extra hands make light work for this, the two of us had it all done in about an hour. For frying, you can use olive oil, canola oil, or rice bran oil.

Ingredients
3 eggs
1/3 cup caster sugar
½ tbsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup whisky
40ml olive oil
2 cups plain flour, sifted
1 cup self raising flour, sifted
Oil for frying (about 750ml)
Icing sugar for dusting

Making them
1. In a bowl, add eggs, caster sugar, vanilla, whisky and oil. Beat with an electric mixture until sugar is dissolved and the mixture pales
2. Fold in flour until a dough forms. If it still seems too sticky, add a little more flour but make sure the ratio of plain to self raising is 2:1
3. Gently knead the dough until smooth. Divide dough into eight equal portions, and flour each portion lightly
4. Using a pasta roller on the widest setting, roll each portion into strips. You may need to fold and roll a couple of times until smooth
5. Set the machine to a narrower setting (on our machine we set it to number 2) and roll the sheets through
6. Using a pastry wheel, cut the dough into strips, with a small slit through the middle, then fold through the hole to form a little twist
7. Head the oil in a deep pan (a wok works well) and gently fry in batches until golden. They will fry very quickly so don’t stray from the cooktop! Place on a paper towel to cool.
8. Dust liberally with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container. You can re-dust them with icing sugar before serving.

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Bridge Street Garage Bar & Diner, Sydney

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I’ve been eyeing off this place every night driving home for the last few months. Its hard to miss the big neon sign, and the industrial type space through the big windows, reflecting its heritage as an actual garage once upon a time. With an Argentinian chef at the helm, its meant to be an American diner/South American cross. So it is no surprise that meat features heavily on the menu.

There are a few good value banquets which I’d seen on the website, $25, $40, and $60, so we opt for the $25 and order a few extra dishes we like the sound of. Our waitress is friendly and keen, but has no idea they even have banquet menus, and has to go ask someone about them.

We start with the guacamole. It is stock standard, probably slightly too acidic, certainly not as good as Mejico’s, lacking the texture and flavour of the latter.

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The empanadas on the other hand, which come with a beef or corn filling, are done well – a good pastry, a tender beef filling, and a great acidic sauce.

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Buffalo wings are next – Spicy chicken wings coated in a sticky BBQ sauce and served with fresh-cut vegetables and a blue cheese sauce.  I found the presentation of this dish particularly unappealing.  As for the taste, there was a good smokiness to it, but it tasted like sauce from a jar.

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Next off is the Garage Burger – Angus & Wagyu beef patty with lettuce, tomato, beetroot, pineapple, bacon, pickles and sauces in a toasted bun, and hand-cut chips on the side.  The burger combo is a good one, and I polish it off quickly.  The chips are underseasoned though and have no special quality to them, so I leave them.

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Deep fried southern crispy chicken, served with a coleslaw salad and Garage sauce. I didn’t try this so don’t know how it compares to Mary’s or Hartsyard, but my dining companions give it an “okay”.

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Sticky pork ribs. These are apparently slow roasted for over 4 hours, so I expect them to be meltingly tender.  And while the flavour is good, the ribs themselves are a little tough.

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The bill is presented in some part of a motor engine (don’t ask me what part, I’m a girl) and it’s a nice touch.

The CBD really needed something like Bridge Street Garage, but unfortunately I don’t think they quite have the formula right yet and won’t be hurrying back.

Bridge St Garage, 17-19 Bridge Street, Ph (02) 9251 9392
http://bridgestgarage.com.au/

Bridge Street Garage Bar & Diner on Urbanspoon

Today’s cake – Torta di Verona my way

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I love the Torta di Verona dessert at Buzo.  They haven’t published a recipe, so I thought I’d make it up.  I daresay they make their own pandoro, but I’m not that ambitious and buy it.  Consequently you can only make this around Christmas time when the pandoro arrives from Italy. I made this on Christmas Day, but prepared the blueberries and almonds the day before to make it easier; it got a big wrap. You’ll need one whole pandoro – I had a 1kg pandoro and used about three quarters of it.  Its unlikely the slices will fit your chosen bowl exactly so tear off pieces as needed to fill in gaps as you create the layers. Serves 8-10.

Blueberry Compote
250g blueberries
4 tbsp. water
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 tbsp. lemon juice

Put the water, sugar and lemon juice in a small pot and stir well to combine. Add the blueberries and cook over medium to low heat, until the blueberries soften but still have some shape. Set aside and allow to cool. Seal in a container and refrigerate until ready to use.

Sugared almonds
100g slivered almonds
1 tbsp. caster sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. amaretto (Italian liquor)
Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 150 degrees. In a bowl, combine the almonds, sugar and amaretto and stir well. Spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper and place in oven until golden, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, dust generously with icing sugar, and allow to cool. Seal in an airtight container and refrigerate until read to use.

Mascarpone cream
5 eggs, separated
5 tbsp. caster sugar
500g mascarpone cheese
50ml marsala
80ml amaretto

In a bowl, whip egg whites until stiff. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks and sugar until pale, then add the mascarpone and mix at high speed. Add the marsala and amaretto, then fold in egg whites.

Assembly
Slice the pandoro into 2cm slices. Remove the outer brown crust.
In a ceramic or glass dish, place 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture, top with a layer of pandoro, another layer of cream, another layer of pandoro, then a final layer of cream. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Using a serving spoon, serve a portion into a bowl. Top with a spoonful of blueberries, followed by a sprinkling of the almonds.